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Defense leads Denison to comeback win over DePauw

Sam Ray (40), Ryan Zinkula (24)  |  Photo by Brett Dunbar
Sam Ray (40), Ryan Zinkula (24) | Photo by Brett Dunbar

GREENCASTLE, Ind.--  The Denison defense held DePauw to just 251 yards of total offense and no touchdowns.  That allowed the Big Red offense to score the final 20 points of the contest, resulting in a hard-fought 20-12 win over the Tigers.

Denison trailed 12-6 with 5:55 left in the game and took over on their own 19-yard line.  A 12-yard pass from Canaan Gebele to Alex Minton got the Big Red going.  Facing 2nd and 15 on their own 26, Gebele connected on an 18-yard pass to David Weimar.  That started a string of four-straight completions to Weimar that went for 18, 12, 20 and 7 yards allowing Denison to drive all the way to the DePauw 24.

On 2nd and 3, Gebele ran for 7 yards, then he tossed a perfect fade to Weimar in the back corner of the end zone, tying the game at 12-12.  After having his first extra-point blocked, Kramer booted his second attempt through the uprights, giving Denison its first lead of the day with 2:38 remaining.

On the ensuing kickoff, an illegal block in the back negated a long return by the Tigers.  That penalty started them on their 17-yard line.  Cam Haynes's pass on first down went for no gain and on second down, Nate Keirn and Jordan Lobel sacked Haynes for a two-yard loss.

Faced with 4th and 12, Haynes was under heavy duress from the Denison pass rush and his pass was incomplete, giving the ball back to Denison with 1:32 left.

DePauw had three timeouts remaining and used them all before Denison was faced with a 3rd and 10 from the DePauw 15 yard line.  The Denison offense came out in a tight formation almost looking like they would settle for a field goal attempt on fourth down, but Hunter Biddle took a jet sweep handoff and raced to the end zone to put DU on top, 20-12.

With 1:17 left DePauw still had life and a 20-yard completion by Haynes to Will Harris got the Tigers to midfield.  Another 20-yard pass to Ethan Hudson made all Denison fans sweat.  DePauw advanced to the Denison 21, facing 3rd and 1.  Haynes went up top to Logan Green and it looked momentarily as if he came down with the touchdown.  At the last minute, Denison cornerback Cory Swartzmiller managed to get a hand on it, knocking the ball loose.  On fourth down, Haynes' pass to Hudson sailed just wide, off his fingertips, allowing Denison to take a knee and run out the clock.

It's a credit to the defense that the Big Red even had a chance to complete the fourth quarter comeback.  There were four Denison turnovers in the first half, but all DePauw could manage was four field goals by Jake Tanner.  He connected on field goals from 27, 25, 39 and 29 in the first half.

DePauw entered the game with the fourth-ranked rushing defense in Division III, allowing only 33 yards per game.  The Big Red managed only 69 yards, led by 42 yards from Biddle, but the duo of Gebele and Weimar got things done through the air when it mattered most.

Gebele was 22-of-33 for 232 yards and two touchdowns.  Weimar had eight receptions for 98 yards and one touchdown.  Minton hauled in six receptions for 45 yards while Biddle added 42 receiving yards on three catches as he scored Denison's lone first half touchdown.

DePauw ran 71 plays, five more than Denison and was only 5-of-18 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down. 

Ryan Hallinan led the Denison defense with nine tackles.  There were 7.5 tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks posted by the Big Red.  Nate Keirn had one sack, two TFLs, and six tackles.  Andrew Smith had eight tackles while Tristan Knoer added eight stops and one forced fumble.  

The victory was the first over DePauw since Oct. 5, 2013, snapping a four-game losing skid against the Tigers. 

With his touchdown pass in the first half to Biddle, Gebele moved past Max Paulus '13, as the program's career leader in touchdown passes.  His two TD passes have him at 55 in his career.  He also eclipsed 9,000 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter.  His 230 yards of offense has him at 9,013 yards with four regular season games remaining.

Denison (4-2, 4-1 NCAC) returns to Granville next Saturday (Oct. 20) when they host Ohio Wesleyan at 1 p.m.